Capitol attack panel said to be considering subpoenas to Trump White House aides

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP</span>
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

The House select committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol is considering issuing a blitz of subpoenas for top Trump White House aides including the former chief and deputy chief of staff, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The subpoenas – which are expected to be authorized as early as this week – would place House select committee investigators inside the White House and Trump campaign war rooms at the time of the insurrection as the panel prepares to ramp up the pace of its inquiry.

Related: Republicans in crosshairs of 6 January panel begin campaign of intimidation

House select committee investigators are considering subpoenas for call detail records or testimony of key aides including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino and former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, the source said.

The scope and subjects of the subpoenas are not yet finalized and discussions about who to include in the first tranche are still ongoing, the source said, although the three Trump officials are presently considered likely targets.

Taken together, the developing move from the select committee marks perhaps the most aggressive investigative actions since the panel made an array of records demands and records preservation requests for Trump officials last month.

It is also likely to further inflame tensions with Trump, already furious at the select committee for opening a line of inquiry into what he knew in advance of plans to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win, as well as Republicans under scrutiny over 6 January.

Brad Parscale, Donald Trump&#x002019;s former campaign manager, played a major part in advancing baseless lies about the stolen 2020 election.
Brad Parscale, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, played a major part in advancing baseless lies about the stolen 2020 election. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Trump officials such as Meadows, Scavino and Parscale played a major part in advancing baseless and disproven lies about a stolen 2020 election that precipitated the “Stop the Steal” rally which descended into the insurrection as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

The former White House chief of staff, who remained by Trump’s side as the violence unfolded, is among several aides who may hold the key to unlock inside information pertaining to the Capitol attack that left five dead and nearly 140 injured.

But House select committee investigators are also taking a special interest in the role played by Scavino, the source said, since he held the additional role of being the director of social media – Trump’s preferred messaging platform.

Subpoenas for call detail records, testimony or other material from those Trump officials and other individuals involved in the 6 January attack would cast a close net around the former president’s inner circle while simultaneously putting them at the center of the investigation.

House select committee investigators first signaled their intention to pursue a close inquiry into the potential role played by the Trump White House and House Republicans when they asked 35 telecom and social media companies to preserve records in case of later subpoenas.

In the records preservation requests, the select committee instructed the companies to avoid destroying the records of several hundred people, including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy and, as the Guardian reported, the White House chief of staff Meadows.

Much of the investigative work by the select committee has so far been focused on gathering evidence, as a prosecutor might, to build a case backstopped by empirical data that would safeguard its final report from criticism of partisanship or built-in bias.

To that end, the select committee is also in the process of scheduling closed-door depositions with key persons of interest included in and beyond the subpoenas, the source said, though the agenda and potential subjects of the interviews were not immediately clear.

A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment about subpoena discussions for Trump administration and campaign officials. But the panel’s chairman, Bennie Thompson, previously told the Guardian he would investigate 6 January conversations involving Trump.

House select committee investigators are showing a new urgency to jolt the investigation into higher gear after the panel held its first hearing before members departed Washington for an extended summer recess. The full select committee – members, counsel and advisors – met for the first time on Monday for more than five hours in the Capitol, taking only short breaks to vote, grab dinner and make an occasional dash to the toilet.

Members and staff for the select committee say they remain in discussions about when and on what topic to schedule a second hearing. At least two members told the Guardian they now expect the next public hearing will be delayed until October, though plans remain fluid.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee, said he expected the panel to receive all the records and testimony it was seeking.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee, said he expected the panel to receive all the records and testimony it was seeking. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/EPA

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee, told reporters after the meeting that new facts about the Capitol attack were surfacing every day and that he expected the panel to ultimately receive all the records and testimony it sought.

Raskin added that he was pushing to secure testimony under oath from anyone with relevant information. “We should see it as an honor and a privilege to be able to provide evidence to Congress about this violent insurrection,” he said.

House select committee investigators are expected to present the subpoenas as non-negotiable, and 6 January select committee member Adam Schiff told reporters that subpoenas were imminent for individuals expected to resist requests for testimony.

“In some cases, we’re making requests we think will be complied with,” said Schiff. “In other cases, we’re going straight to subpoenas where we think we’re dealing with recalcitrant witnesses.”

Schiff, a former Trump impeachment manager from the 2019 trial and the chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he hoped the justice department would also help the select committee hold subpoena defiers in contempt of Congress.

Trump has threatened in recent weeks to mount challenges to the select committee’s work, enraged at the prospect of his embarrassing private efforts to subvert the 2020 election results and reinstall himself in office being made public.

“Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of my administration and the patriots who worked beside me, but on behalf of the office of the president of the United States and the future of our nation,” Trump said in a statement.

It was not clear whether his claims of executive privilege carried weight. The justice department has declined to assert the protection over Capitol attack testimony after the White House office of legal counsel determined it did not exist to benefit private interests.